Prevention Corner: Reading Orienteering Club
As of 2015, 64% of fourth grade and 66% of eighth grade students were still reading below national proficiency standards (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015). These numbers are troubling since illiteracy has been linked to lower socioeconomic status and poor health (Dugdale & Clark, 2008). The importance of learning how to read cannot be understated, and, as such, it is vital that prevention programs target reading skills in childhood. One program that aims to help children overcome difficulties with reading, as well as difficulties with interpersonal relationships, is the Reading Orienteering Club (ROC) founded by Dr. Clanton Harpine. This program combines teaching and counseling in order to maximize academic benefits in an approach known as group-centered prevention (Clanton Harpine, 2015). This format for a reading prevention group is incredibly important for two reasons. First, combining academic and therapeutic interventions in prevention programs has been linked to a higher likelihood of obtaining academic success (Baskin, Slaten, Sorenson, Glover-Russell, & Merson, 2010), and, second, research has shown that teaching in groups, especially in small groups, leads to better results than other forms of teaching instruction (National Reading Panel, 2000). Although this program originated in Ohio, it has found a home in Aiken, South Carolina, and, under the careful direction of Dr. Clanton Harpine, has experienced great success in improving children’s reading abilities and interpersonal skills for many years. Even though Dr. Clanton Harpine is retiring this year, the ROC will continue under the guidance of Collytte Cederstrom, a former intern whom I worked with at the clinic while I was an undergraduate, as well as three additional team members, Sara Puckett, Matt Haslinger, and Ashley Conklin, and a rotation of church, community, and student volunteers. Dr. Clanton Harpine was kind enough to share her thoughts on building and continuing a sustainable student-run reading prevention program, as well as the important effects of these programs for students and the larger community.
While the ROC has typically depended on student volunteers from local undergraduate courses in order to operate fully, this proved challenging at times due to the high number of children in the program, the fluctuating number of volunteers, and the small number of permanent team members working in the clinic. This past year, Dr. Clanton Harpine sought to enlarge her team of permanent members in order to provide more stability to the program, and, did so successfully. The ROC now has four permanent team members and each member is in charge of their own room within the clinic with the children rotating throughout the workstations in each room. Having this consistent, larger student presence in the clinic has not only provided a stronger base for the program, but will also continue to provide more opportunities for students and community members to gain experience working in a prevention group setting. In addition to these permanent team members, the clinic will still rely on student volunteers, as well as community volunteers, and a rotation of church volunteers. Community involvement has always played a role in the success of the ROC, but it seems the remarkable improvement shown by students in the program these past few years has garnered even more community and financial support, which will be vital in continuing this program.
Although group prevention programs for academic purposes are often overlooked in favor of individual tutoring, for the 2016-2017 academic year, the ROC had two students move up four grade levels, three students move up three grade levels, and five students move up two grade levels. In addition to the success the program has had in improving students’ reading abilities, this program, as well as others like it, also provide an area for job growth, specifically for students graduating with bachelor’s degrees in psychology who do not wish to, or are unable to, attend graduate school (Clanton Harpine, 2016). Overall, group prevention programs represent a field that will not only benefit the participants in the programs, but also the communities they are a part of by providing more opportunities for support and job expansion.
Baskin, T. W., Slaten, C. D., Sorenson, C., Glover-Russell, J., & Merson, D. N. (2010). Does youth psychotherapy improve academically related outcomes?: A meta-analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 57, 290-296.
Clanton Harpine, E. (2015). Group-Centered Prevention in Mental Health: Theory, Training, and Practice. New York: Springer.
Clanton Harpine, E. (2016). Prevention Corner: Why can’t I get a job with a four year degree in psychology. The Group Psychologist, 26(2).
Dugdale, G., & Clark, C. (2008). Literacy changes lives: An advocacy resource. London, UK: National Literacy Trust.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The Nation’s Report Card: Reading 2011 (NCES 2015-457). Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.
National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction (NIH Publication No. 00-4754).